Selling vs. Telling

by Ben Milsom – March 2015

Making the pitch

Recently I attended a recruiting meeting with a local college football coach where the goal was to get the high school senior to commit to attend his school.  I agreed to attend the meeting after I was sure that I wasn’t breaking any rules and also because I knew I was going to learn something.  I met the coach before the meeting and we discussed the goal and the best practices when it came to this type of meeting.  The college had a great history of success as well as a fine reputation of placing students into great jobs once they graduated.  Needless to say the coach really had a great product to sell.

Info Dumping

Most new salespeople come into sports sales really excited about many things:  a new city, an exciting player, a winning record or just the fact that they are working in professional sports.  This leads many times to what is called “info dumping.”  The excitement leads the salesperson to do more telling than consultative selling.  Many times in meetings the salesperson has done most of the talking without gaining information from their prospect.  This is exactly how this meeting went.  The coach introduced us and began discussing team record, school history, alumni and the city where the school was located.  The whole time the student was eating his lunch with a somewhat glazed look on this face.  I kept thinking about how many times this occurs in sports sales.  This “pitch” only really works when your product is winning.  There was still so much information to be learned from the student.  What are some of the questions that could have been asked?

  • What is important to you in your college selection?
  • How important is education vs. football?
  • How comfortable are you with the location of the school?
  • Tell me about what you would like to study?Why?
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY after all the information is gathered: What is it going to take for you to commit to X college?

[dropshadowbox align=”center” effect=”lifted-both” width=”600px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]Pitching in sales works in the same way it works in baseball. It’s one direction and irreversible. To be an effective sales professional you need to engage in strategic listening to understand your customers preferences, priorities, level of interest and more before you propose, pitch, tell and sell. – Gregg Baron, President, Success Sciences[/dropshadowbox]

Selling not Telling

Matt Smith
Matt Smith

Matt Smith,  Regional Manager, IMG Learfield, shares, “When I think of this mindset of selling not telling, I think of a Doctor and a Pharmacist. Old-school salespeople were pharmacists, while we must be Doctors. A good doctor must know everything about the problems of the patient, everything about the possible treatments, then they must have an idea of how to tie the problem to the right solution…and they must do it all with the right heart and mindset. Pharmacists simply must know about drugs and prescriptions.”  As a salesperson, offering a solution before learning all you can about the customer is like a doctor prescribing treatment without first knowing the ailment.


So many times we miss the opportunity to let our prospect tell us what they want and how they want it.  This also misses a chance for us to ask for referrals, build a stronger relationship and ultimately up sell our product.  The difference between a good and great salesperson in my mind is their ability to ask effective and productive questions and use those questions to make a consultative and productive sale.  The telling approach usually leads to buyer remorse and ultimately money left on the table.

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